For this 4th Sunday of Advent, i am sharing to you something very personal. This was originally shared to a clinical group 5 years ago and given the title Culture, Spirituality, and Transformation: A Way from a Mother’s Womb. With a little pruning, I am giving it a different title however for 2 reasons and in view of these 2 crucial events: one is Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth where the “infant leaped in her womb”; and the second, as my protest against the 15 US Catholic Senators who voted to finance abortion through public money.
Let me set the reflective mood first with this quote from Henri Nouwen:
“Where is this peace to be found? The answer is clear. In weakness. First of all, in our own weakness, in those places of our hearts where we feel most broken, most insecure, most in agony, most afraid. Why there? Because there our familiar ways of controlling our world are being stripped away; there we are called to let go from doing much, thinking much, and relying on our self-sufficiency. Right there where we are weakest the peace which is not of this world is hidden.”
Adam’s Story: The Peace That Is Not Of This World”
There is power in telling our stories, there is transformative power in sharing them. By sharing our stories, we learn to embrace our “angels” and name our “demons.” I have my story. You have your story. Let me begin mine from something so unique to me yet shared by human beings: what i learned, still learning, and need to unlearn from my mother’s womb.
Being in the womb was like being in the garden of relationality. It was total unity, like that of Adam and Eve before their expulsion from the Garden; a unity of my father’s sperm and my mother’s egg, of my mother and me. A unity so primordial and ancient, so universal. Never so close can one living being get to another living than being in one’s mother’s womb. What a profound and life-changing bond! Me, altering my mother’s body, my mother significantly shaping an emergent being in me. My mother standing with her own intra and extra personal resources: physical, psychological, and spiritual; Me, heavily dependent on those resources yet thriving independently on my own.
At the 16th week of my mother’s pregnancy, i could have been sensitive to light as my vision developed slowly in the dim, confined prenatal garden. Then by the 4th month, i may have developed basic reflexes and a host of facial expressions. At 5 or 6 months, i may have been sensitive to touch, then eventually to the noises in my mother’s body, and to voices , or music. Between 28 and 34 weeks, my brain’s neural circuits may be as advanced as a newborn’s and my cerebral cortex, mature enough to support consciousness. A few weeks later, my brain waves could have become distinct. Thus far in science, this is how a “normal” prenatal being develops.
I hope yours was a normal one.
I probably struggled hard with mine. After all, my mother was born fatherless and denied of her natural need for a father. My grandmother was a victim of masculine violence. And so is my mother, a kind of masculine violence that perhaps will never be resolved in her lifetime.
How about you? What was your mother’s experience in her mother’s womb?
While in my mother’s womb, the cycle of masculine continued. My father left her with no intention of taking responsibility for his actions. Masculine violence being passed to me, and certainly, to a good number of innocent beings around me. No wonder – millions die from violence! My prenatal world knew only the hostility of wounded men. Certainly, i must have felt my mother’s anxiety and her endless, restless thought to protect me. Our bonding was deepened because i was her treasure in a fragile vessel. The more intense the anxiety, the more neurohormones released to combat stress. I wonder what measure of those anxieties i have absorbed. It was a stressful world for a fragile being like me. No doubt, it was my first experience of violence in that garden of unity.
How about you? Was yours a serene world or a world of protest?
I grew in complexity as the environment, both internal and external, continued to fashion me. My growth continued despite the injustice. Or more ambiguously, despite the dialectic of my father’s absence and my mother’s over-attachment to me. My growing complexity continued. The more complex i became, the more resistance i had against my upcoming detachment. The womb became my protection against a violent world. My mother never had an easy “death” for me (i have one scar on the skull from some forceps). Alienation from that comfort zone was too painful. Onward with the struggle against the seemingly punishing uterine contractions and constricting birth canal. I have to “die” from that archetypal union anyway, to discover more about that violent world that i sensed, my mother hoping to find friendship for me outside her life-nourishing womb. It was only through the struggle of contraction of the uterus and the birth canal, the struggle against alienation, and the “emptying of the womb” that i could be thrown back into the “womb of the universe” where a more developed consciousness thrives.
Since then, i learned that truth is not as clear as black or white. I learned about culturally induced and unnecessary anger and anxieties. And so about the dialectic of connectedness, alienation, and transformation. Now, i am back to that struggle to reclaim that lost primordial oneness with Mother Nature. This time, in the womb of Mother Earth with its connecting, alienating (like abortion), and transforming elements.
In the midst of anger and anxieties, uterine contraction and paternal absence, alienation and violence, LIFE PREVAILS! Because,
You formed my inmost being;You knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise You, so wonderfully You made me;
Wonderful are Your works!
My very self You knew;
My bones were not hidden from You.
When i was being made in secret,
fashioned as in the depths of the earth.
I am wonderfully made. I can forgive. I am forgiving.
I am evolving more beautifully from my past.
I hope you are…